John Ruth III
John Ruth III

Nearly a decade after a Windsor Township man was found gunned down in his driveway, police have arrested a convicted drug dealer for the slaying, alleging he needed to "silence" the victim.

Stacey J. Farmer, 33, was found dead in front of his 880 Snyder Corner Road home at 3:20 a.m. June 27, 2002. He died of a single gunshot wound to the head, fired at close range, police said.

On Monday, York Area Regional Police arrested John E. Ruth III, 56, of 200 S. Main St. in Red Lion. He is charged with homicide and remains in York County Prison without bail.

Officer Peter Montgomery, a York Area Regional spokesman, said Ruth is a convicted drug dealer who was involved in the same drug circle as Farmer.

Stacey Farmer
Stacey Farmer (Laura Smit)

Ruth is the brother of York Area Regional Officer Charles Ruth, Montgomery confirmed.

"Officer Ruth was not involved in this, and (the fraternal relationship) had no bearing on the investigation of this case," Montgomery said.

Two killings: At the time of his slaying, Farmer was free on bail, accused of helping friend Duane L. Frey cover up another homicide that also happened on Farmer's property.

Frey was later convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison for killing Hopethan "Flex" Johnson, 29, of Red Lion, on May 26, 2002.

Frey told police Johnson was his drug dealer and had ruined his life. He blamed Johnson for his addiction and for wiping out his life savings of about $13,000, trial testimony revealed.

However, he refused to tell investigators what became of Johnson's body, except to say "it's probably crab bait right now."

On March 25, 2008, two land surveyors found Johnson's remains on a remote mountainside not far from the Holtwood Dam.

Coming clean? Police said Farmer had at least peripheral involvement in Johnson's murder as well, and was charged with evidence-tampering and hindering the prosecution of a suspect.

Farmer was killed two days after The York Dispatch published an article quoting Farmer's family members as saying Farmer planned to go to police and come clean.

"Since Johnny Ruth was part of the drug culture in this area, he needed to silence (Farmer)," Montgomery said.

Farmer's former home was a gathering place for a group of people, including Frey, who used crack-cocaine supplied by Johnson and Ruth, police said.

Ruth sold cocaine out of Farmer's home, and would give Farmer cocaine as a form of rent, according to police, but the two men had a falling out in early 2002.

DNA match: DNA recovered from under Farmer's fingernails matches Ruth's DNA, according to charging documents filed by regional Detective Kathleen Burke.

Farmer's body was moved after he was shot, according to those documents.

Burke's investigation revealed Farmer was heavily involved in the use and sale of crack-cocaine, and that Ruth was a major source of cocaine for the York County area, police allege.

In 2003, Ruth admitted being an "associate" of Farmer's, and said their relationship revolved around the sale and use of crack, documents state.

Phone call: Documents allege Ruth received a call from Farmer on his cell phone shortly before Farmer was killed, meaning Ruth is the last known person to have contact with him.

A witness told investigators that in the hours before he was killed, Farmer was at a local bar when a handgun he was carrying fell to the floor, documents state. That handgun has never been found, police said.

The same witness said he later met with Ruth to buy cocaine, and that Ruth said "words to the effect (of) 'Farmer is a dead man,'" according to charging documents.

Another witness told police Ruth was greedy and paranoid, documents state.

"John Ruth perceived Stacey Farmer to be a threat to him and his cocaine supply network from New York," Burke wrote in the documents.

-- Reach Elizabeth Evans at levans@yorkdispatch.com, 505-5429 or twitter.com/ydcrimetime.